A coalition of some of the world’s biggest and greediest corporations, which lobbied to shift their tax burden from themselves to America’s fast-disappearing middle class, is no more.
The WIN America Campaign — led by Apple, Google, Cisco, and Pfizer — disbanded after months of sustained grassroots pressure against its tax-avoiding “repatriation” scam.
See, these big companies got a huge tax break in 2004, paying just a 5-percent federal tax rate on the U.S. profits they brought back to America from bank accounts in overseas tax havens like the Cayman Islands. Without this giveaway, they would have had to pay as much as 35 percent. President George W. Bush, along with the Republican-controlled Congress, gave it to them under the auspices of “job creation.”
Those profits were made in America, but these companies exploited the loopholes they had lobbied for that enabled them to make money here without paying U.S. taxes.
And that big tax break they got for shifting American profits back to America didn’t create jobs. Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Pfizer, and others actually cut tens of thousands of jobs in the year following their “repatriation” tax break, while paying multimillion-dollar salaries to their CEOs and buying back stocks. Then they shifted even more profits overseas, hoping to cash in on the next repatriation scam.
It took dedicated activists to stop corporations from scoring another wasteful tax break on the more than $1 trillion in profits they’ve stashed abroad. Nonprofit organizations like Citizens for Tax Justice, Jubilee USA, the Institute for Policy Studies, and Global Financial Integrity contributed an onslaught of devastating studies and reports exposing the truth of the last repatriation scam.
Grassroots groups like US Uncut, which I co-founded, then used creative direct action to bring that information to Apple customers in over a dozen major cities, from Honolulu to Washington, DC. Some of the activists who took part in the Wisconsin uprising of early 2011 protested at the Apple store in Madison. Leslie Dreyer of US Uncut San Francisco and several others wore pastel-colored, skintight Zentai suits emblazoned with a QR code that linked to US Uncut’s video calling on Apple to ditch the WIN America Campaign, right outside of the company’s 2011 Worldwide Developers Conference. Jim Coleman and US Uncut Chicago demonstrated outside of the city’s flagship Apple store for 12 weeks straight.
Eventually, the media took notice, from Fox Business News to The Nation.
Activists also engaged the WIN America Campaign online. When it created a YouTube channel, this corporate tax-dodging outfit posted a news clip featuring Rep. Paul Ryan talking about how he didn’t want corporations to get this kind of tax break every seven years, but every day. US Uncut posted it on our Facebook page, and within an hour Uncutters gave the video hundreds of “dislikes” and a lengthy comment thread filled with disparaging comments for the Wisconsin Republican and corporate tax dodgers. WIN America soon deleted the video, along with its YouTube channel.
The Obama administration opposed this unpatriotic repatriation bill, which ultimately died in Congress.
The moral of the story? Organized people can and will prevail over organized greed.
The WIN America campaign is gone, at least until the 2012 elections are over. But we won’t let these companies off the hook. If they really want to create jobs, they should stick to the promise they made. They must dedicate 5 percent of their American profits stashed overseas to creating new jobs in America, or use that money to give a raise to non-executive employees.